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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

voanews.com

Obama: Iran Building Secret Nuclear Plant

By VOA News
25 September 2009

U.S. President Barack Obama and other Western leaders have accused Iran of building a secret nuclear facility - a charge Iran has denied.

Mr. Obama, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicolas Sarkozy made the announcement Friday at the G20 economic summit in Pittsburgh, in the northeastern U.S. state of Pennsylvania.

The leaders accused Iran's government of building a covert, underground plant to produce nuclear fuels. They insisted the International Atomic Energy Agency have access right away to ensure it is not being built to produce nuclear weapons.

Obama administration officials say construction of the plant violates U.N. Security Council resolutions calling on Iran to halt uranium enrichment.

Iranian officials say accusations the facility is secret are not true. Iran's nuclear chief, Ali Akbar Salehi, says activity at the plant is within the framework of the IAEA.

Iran acknowledged existence of the plant in a letter this week to the U.N. nuclear agency.

Following the announcement Friday at the G20 summit, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad canceled a news conference scheduled for 5 p.m. (local time) (2100 UTC) at the United Nations.

Mr. Obama said Western countries presented evidence of the facility to the IAEA Thursday. He said "the size and configuration of this facility is inconsistent with a peaceful program."

Mr. Obama said the United States has long known about the facility's existence and that Iran has kept it hidden from weapons inspectors for years. The plant is said to be located inside a mountain near the holy Shi'ite city of Qum, about 160 kilometers southwest of Tehran.

Obama administration officials say they decided to go public with the information after Iran discovered that Western intelligence agencies were aware of the facility.

President Sarkozy said he expects the IAEA to conduct a strict and rigorous investigation of the plant. Prime Minister Brown said Iran's "level of deception" has left the international community with no choice "but to draw a line in the sand."

Previously, Iran was known to have only one uranium enrichment plant, in Natanz. That plant is monitored by the IAEA.

The United States and its Western allies accuse Iran of working to produce a nuclear weapon. Iran says its atomic program is for peaceful purposes.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.



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